July 31, 2005

Sunday shorts.

Mekas Poster "I have no script. The story is me and the people around me. It's there, it's real life and there is no other. I'm not carrying any other story. There is no suspense. There is no violence. There is no drama. There is no violence because I am not interested in it. I'm interested in the celebration of life." Jonas Mekas talks to Richard Marshall in 3AM Magazine. Via Movie City Indie.

"When your worst movies are worth watching more than once, you are an uncommonly good filmmaker... The very least I expect from a [Terry] Gilliam film is a handful... of magic moments," writes Moriarty at AICN. "And on that level, I enjoyed The Brothers Grimm, the most nakedly commercial and impersonal film that Gilliam's ever made."

Flickhead:

Rivette saunters along with his nouvelle vague compatriots Rohmer, Chabrol and Godard, each remaining true to their art and their radically different visions. Now in their seventies, they've been making pictures for over forty-five years, and represent a film culture and language — once so fresh and vital — that's nearing extinction. That's a warning signal for some of us, as my mind rarely comes alive at the cinema anymore. Except when in the presence of such a rare gift of dimension and substance and elegant romanticism as Marie and Julien.

Blake is very much looking forward to QT Six, the fest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin during which, over nine days, Tarantino introduces a selection of over thirty films from his own collection. Also at Cinema Strikes Back: David rounds up highlights from the release list from Celestial Pictures announcing remastered and restored Shaw Brothers films heading to DVD next year.

Jarmusch series

"Jim Jarmusch is the last major truly independent film director in America," announces Lynn Hirschberg in the New York Times Magazine, only to hear him say, a few paragraphs down, "It's all so... independent. I'm so sick of that word." The story, from going gray at 15 up through Broken Flowers, follows, laced, naturally, with re-readable quotes throughout: "I really miss Joe Strummer... Even though he's dead, I still get advice from him. He's very good at telling you to stick to your guns. I have Nick Ray, Sam Fuller and Joe - I have some great spirits when I need guidance. I hear William Burroughs a lot, too, but I don't really want to listen to his advice." Related, and via Chuck Tryon: Laura Winters's interview with Jarmusch in the Washington Post.

In the NYT:

A Fistful of Dollars

"This is probably one of the hardest documentaries I've ever watched; it really does hit you like a punch in the face and almost from the outset." Richard Brunton at the Movie Blog on Kirby Dick's Twist of Faith.

Neal Gabler: Life: The Movie "Movies, television and DVDs are attracting fewer patrons because people, especially young people, value being entertained less than they value knowing about entertainment and entertainers," argues Life: The Movie author Neal Gabler in the Los Angeles Times. "Movies have become what director Alfred Hitchcock called a 'MacGuffin' — a red herring that triggers a plot but has no other inherent value. Like MacGuffins, movies have little inherent purpose except to be talked about, written about, learned about — shared as information."

Then, along with a PDF file of a quick comic strip by Jessica Abel, the paper asks its three critics about what may or may not turn out to be the Great Slump of 2005:

  • Carina Chocano: "[A]re we supposed to panic or gloat? I can never tell."

  • Kenneth Turan: "The studios like to pretend differently at Oscar time, but the reality is that Hollywood has pretty much completely written off the adult audience and placed its faith instead in teenagers and people in their 20s. And now the chickens have come home to roost."

  • Kevin Thomas: "[W]hat if the slump lingers? That could turn out to be the best thing that's happened to Hollywood in years."

Also in the LAT: Rachel Abramowitz profiles Defamer Mark Lisanti, one of the many [insert post-ironic self-reference] who feed us the "information" Gabler's talking about, and Susan King previews the Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction, August 5 through 21.

Sean Smith: "Newsweek asked some of the brightest minds and biggest brokers in the film business to predict how movies and moviegoing will be different 10 years from now. It looks as if the summer of 2015 will be a lot cooler."

Two notes on censorship: Brian Flemming wryly marvels at attempts to delete the Wikipedia entry on The God Who Wasn't There: "Man, who would have thought that people would do unethical things in the name of Jesus?"

Mysterious Skin And Matt Clayfield explains why Australia's OFLC Classification Review Board should not ban Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin: "Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is like watching a torturously beautiful swan machine-gun itself and others to death as it dives majestically over the edge of a cliff in impeccable slow motion. Even if the film was atrocious, which it isn't, this performance is just so revelatory that it doesn't deserve to be withheld from the Australian cinema going public."

In the Guardian and Observer:

  • Ian Jack on The Battle of Algiers: "As I looked at it again, what struck me was its prescience; how it described a world now familiar to all of us, when at the time of its appearance in 1965 it described only a particular Algerian world that had recently been left behind."

  • Paul Harris on that bus tour: "[D]espite her 15-year 'retirement,' [Jane] Fonda has never really been far away from the American Zeitgeist."

  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: A Room With a View.

Hitler's Hat

At Filmmaker, Steve Gallagher points to an open call for participants in the Assassination Chain Letter project, which entails, essentially, various filmmakers shooting sections of what'll ultimately add up to a full-length feature.

Online viewing tip. Jeff Krulik's Hitler's Hat, "A documentary about a Jewish GI who found Hitler's top hat, crushed it, and took it home as a souvenir of war...where it sat buried in his magic trick closet for 50 years." Click here to watch. Via DVblog.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:29 AM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2005

Shorts, 7/29.

24-Hour Psycho "'CUT/Film as Found Object in Contemporary Video' at the Milwaukee Art Museum is the first exhibition in an American museum to focus on film appropriation in contemporary art, or more precisely, contemporary video," writes Roberta Smith in the New York Times. "[W]ith a spacious, well-choreographed installation that moves from lighter to darker galleries, it covers quite a bit of ground in terms of the ways, means and end results of film appropriation. It also includes some recent standouts of the genre, including Douglas Gordon's 1993 24-Hour Psycho (which is just that) and Christian Marclay's 2002 Video Quartet, a rousing homage to the silver screen."

At the Museum's site, you can grab a PDF file of Ruth Lopez's review of the show for Time Out Chicago. Definitely a recommended read, it's a quick and breezy tour and at least one or two of the pieces described are likely to launch a train of thought you'll be more than happy to ride.

"Andy never met one of those people before I cast them. They were not his coterie, and they were not hanging out at his gallery. These were selections of mine! I've had this all my life! The horror of it! His celebrityhood, which is an invention of the media, dominating my films!" Paul Morrissey unloads on Kevin Mahler in the Times of London.

The World

Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect on The World: "The park would be too perfect a metaphor - E-Z Symbolism for the toll of globalization, China's lurch into the market economy, fueled on a generation’s shattered dreams - were it not for the rigor of Jia [Zhang-ke]'s storytelling technique."

And then, putting his praise for the "masterpiece" in print, that is, in the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Jia, with his choreographed wide-screen long takes in long shot, may be the best cinematic composer of figures in landscapes since Michelangelo Antonioni. And as with Antonioni, the disconnections count more than the connections."

Speaking of Antonioni, the cinetrix has a question. And in return: "This interview with Walter Murch may not be new, but it sure is good."

Juste avant la nuit "The most thrilling insight in Chabrol's pictures is that killers are the least thrilling of people," writes Christopher Bray in the New Statesman, and later, "Thirty years ago, during the high tide of New Left orthodoxy, it was fashionable to criticise Chabrol for not criticising the bourgeoisie. But could there be a more damning indictment of middle-class repression than Juste avant la nuit?"

Matt Clayfield at the Brisbane International Film Festival: "Of everything I saw yesterday (five features, a short feature and two shorts) Caveh Zahedi's I am a Sex Addict (2005) and Dominique Dubosc's Palestine Remembered (2004) were far and away the most interesting and affecting.... As far as I'm concerned, Palestine Remembered is, in actual fact, a series of loosely connected videoblog entries, tied together with suitable elegance by a series of visual motifs, musical cues and an overwhelming sense of place." More and more.

"Do students need to have professors demystify media for them when everything ranging from DVDs to blogs to the internet itself conspire to dethrone the very logic of master narratives?" asks Nick Rombes.

Reviews in the NYT:

The Aristocrats

"Through his years in the wilderness, [Michael] Powell never lost faith in his vision," writes Abigail Sanderson. Also in the Independent: Elaine Lipworth interviews Andy Garcia.

LA CityBeat: Rob Zombie "Sometimes people will say something like, 'When are you going to grow up?' I feel like I'm running a million-dollar company and you're working at 7-Eleven, and you're asking me when I'm going to grow up?" Rob Zombie has a point there, and he makes it to Steve Appleford. Also in the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein on The Aristocrats: "If you’re not in the 'uncomfortable with this stuff' group – and maybe even if you are but can somehow go with the flow – the movie is painfully, soda-out-your-nose, hyperventilatingly hysterical."

For Moviefone, Aaron Hillis talks to Errol Morris "about his unorthodox introduction to documentary film, his thoughts on DVD and the frequent iconoclasms and ambiguities that are part of his directorial trademark."

Christie's will be staging an auction of vintage movie posters in September in London. More than a few are expected to fetch tens of thousands of pounds, and Steve Rose knows at least one reason why: "Those were the days - before downloadable trailers, 30-second TV spots, magazine spreads, fast-food promotional tie-ins, sticker slams and stealth marketing campaigns when the only marketing tools available to the movie promoter were an eye-catching poster and a carefully cultivated celebrity scandal." Also in the Guardian: Duncan Campbell on Sally Potter's Yes.

Nicole Kidman is going on holiday. Stop the presses, you say? Well, she may be gone a while. Like, a year or two, as she explains to John Hiscock in the Telegraph.

Christopher Walken Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post: "So now, once again, he's in a big hit. If you watch a lot of movies you get hooked on some of these real people. The trajectory of their careers is just as interesting as the stories they're in on-screen. So it's a happy time for [Christopher] Walken and us." Also: Jonathan Yardley on Alec Guinness: "Like millions of others, I was captivated by his range, his sympathy, his wit and - this above all - his ability to lose himself so completely in the characters he played that they became utterly real and discrete."

Ryan Stewart at Cinematical on The Constant Gardener: "What [Fernando] Meirelles can't get away from is the essential novelness of this film, which would announce itself to any blank-slate viewer who meandered into the theater. There are back-stories we don't care about, character arcs that don't go anywhere, and, most lethally, a series of Big Ideas that don't stand up to scrutiny."

"By all appearances, enterprising discussions and efforts aimed at reinventing business models to reflect dramatic changes in technology and consumer habits are not occurring fast enough, in enough of the right places to avoid a potential economic quagmire in media and entertainment sectors; a quagmire caused by the failure to cultivate new revenue streams fast enough to offset deteriorating old revenue streams." Diane Mermigas lines up the numbers in the Hollywood Reporter.

Dennis Cozzalio crams half a summer of viewing into a single week.

At Out of Focus, Aaron previews the weekend.

Online listening tip. NPR's Laura Sidell talks to Chuck Olsen among others about Current.tv.

Online viewing tip. Bill Murray on David Letterman, as long as that clip lasts. He's in love, you know.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:23 AM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2005

Shorts, 7/28.

Agee Non-subscribers are seeing less and less of the Atlantic these days, but fortunately, Benjamin Schwartz's brief appreciation for the "eccentric choice" the Library of America has made - it has "canonized James Agee" - is accessible: "Since watching silent films as a teenager he recognized, as [Dwight] Macdonald observed, that movies were 'the great, new twentieth-century art form,' and as the film reviewer for The Nation and Time from 1941 to 1948, he was more or less the first writer to make the movies respectable to American intellectuals."

"Everyone in the Triangle who cares about movies knows the name of Godfrey Cheshire," writes Kate Dobbs Ariail. Of course, more than a few know and respect the name as well. "What very few know," continues Ariail, "is that for the last couple of years he's been writing only for the Independent [Weekly], curtailing his critical activities in order to do advance work on a new project. Now he's back home in Raleigh for most of this year, to recreate himself again - this time as the maker of films." Also: David Fellerath on Murderball and Bad News Bears.

Here's a fine twist in Lee Siegel's piece on Lauren Bacall for the New Republic: "The reality of Hollywood, more than the reality of any other place, is antithetical to the creations of Hollywood. It recalls Dostoevsky's fable of the Grand Inquisitor, who spins a lie about Christian love and redemption to keep people in their place."

Also, Christopher Orr: "Jeunet's earlier films never let you come to them. They rushed out to meet you, a little too eager to win your affection. A Very Long Engagement, by contrast, takes its time, gathering weight and drawing you in slowly." And Stanley Kauffmann on War of the Worlds and The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

For the Age, Joyce Morgan interviews Bill Viola, who "acknowledges he has wrestled with whether, in the face of political tyranny and the need for action, he could justify being an artist. And he found an answer in an unlikely quarter, in the life of the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St John of the Cross who was imprisoned and tortured, but bore no malice towards his tormenter." Also via Movie City Indie: Time Out's Dave Calhoun heads to Denmark to chat up Lars von Trier and, at Alternet, Jeff Chang and Sylvia Chan watch Crash and debate the question, "Can Hollywood Get Race Right?"

Also in the Age: Philippa Hawker talks with Fruit Chan about his career. Via the IFC Blog.

Margaret "Dirty Pillows" White turns in an early review of Albert Brooks's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: "The Albert Brooks I know and love is in fact back!... So he gets called up by the powers that be, i.e., real life ex-Senator, and current day Law & Order cast member, Fred Dalton Thompson... to go to India and Pakistan and find out what makes the Muslims laugh. This is a late in the game attempt by the government to try something other than the 'usual methods of spying and fighting' to figure out what the hell is going on on that side of the world."

Byambasuren Davaa was born in Mongolia and, with co-director Luigi Falorni, made The Story of the Weeping Camel while studying at the Munich Film Academy. Now she has a new film in German theaters, The Cave of the Yellow Dog. Der Spiegel's Lars-Olav Beier reports - in English, too, thanks to Christopher Sultan.

Voice: 9 Songs Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs is the movie of the week at the Village Voice. Filmmaker's Matthew Ross profiles Tartan, the distribution company that's taken on the risk of sending the explicit British film to US theaters. It's run by "Hamish McAlpine, a Scotsman known as much for his business acumen as his brash, dandyish persona (wearing white fur to premieres, getting into fistfights with Larry Clark, etc.)." Rachel Kramer Bussel tells you what you can expect to see - a lot, of course - and Jessica Winter offers "9 ways of looking at 9 Songs." More from Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly.

Also:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress In the New York Times, Alan Riding talks to filmmaker turned novelist turned filmmaker Dai Sijie about his versions of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Brooke Allen reviewed the book in 2001 (first chapter); more on the film from Ed Park in the Voice.

Also in the NYT:

Kate Crane: "In [Moira] Tierney's work, what's superficial to Super-8 takes a backseat to composition, character and the electricity of moments." Also in the New York Press: Matt Zoller Seitz on Michael Bay's "migraine-inducing" The Island.

Jessica Winter in the City Pages:

Masculine Feminine

The filmmaker's touchy, brittle love affair with Hollywood, recorded in the noir poses of Breathless and the MGM-musical moves of A Woman Is a Woman, had by the mid-60s irreversibly soured into feelings of contempt for American cultural imperialism in France and military imperialism in Vietnam. After the intimations of auto-da-fé in the explosive finale of Pierrot le fou - a film that Colin MacCabe in Godard calls "a reworking of all the [director's] themes to date" - Godard made it new in Masculine Feminine, his virgin eye assessing new actors, a new production team, and a cast of characters in their late teens and early 20s, for whom a political consciousness is still nascent or inchoate, the future as yet undiscovered. Godard's acidic pessimism, however, remained intact, unvirginal.

Also: Chris Godsey on the Free Range Film Festival, running tomorrow and Saturday "[j]ust outside Wrenshall, Minnesota... a blip on the map about 40 minutes south of Duluth," and Peter S Scholtes on Bad News Bears.

Which wasn't what Richard Linklater expected would be his first sports movie. That would have been Friday Night Lights. He tells Raoul Hernandez that he'd written a draft for a low-budget production but tossed it when he saw the bigger one firing up. "So I was like, 'Okay, I'll go check this out.' Then I told Billy [Bob Thornton] after, 'Forgive me. I thought you were great, but I can't be objective about that movie.' I mean, I had made that movie in my head." Also in the Austin Chronicle: Spencer Parsons on the making of Bryan Poyser and Jake Vaughn's The Cassidy Kids, Joe O'Connell's news roundup and Josh Rosenblatt on The Best of Open Screen Night: Year 2.

Some won't be happy to hear it, but as Eugene Hernandez reports, Winter Soldier is headed to theaters. Also at indieWIRE: Eugene has five questions for On the Outs directors Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik and Brian Brooks wraps the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Gates of Heaven At Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Rumsey Taylor takes on the sudden (though way overdue) avalanche of Errol Morris films on DVD, Gates of Heaven, Vernon, Florida and The Thin Blue Line. Which leads to a summertime online viewing tip, Morris's Odyssey, one of the longest of his many brilliant ads for Miller High-Life.

Besides the latest Korean news roundup, X also has entries at Twitch on Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (two versions will be shown; one will "gradually fade from full colour to black and white starting from the middle portion, using the Digital Intermediate technology"), A Bittersweet Life, The Beast & the Beauty and more DVDs. Also, Todd has a couple of big lists: Fantasia Festival winners, new titles added to the Toronto International Film Festival line-up, eight of them world premieres and the complete lineup of the Venice Film Festival. And via the indieWIRE Insider: An AP report on why there'll be fewer films at Venice this year: Security concerns.

Grady Hendrix may well make you laugh at loud with his succinct entry on Tsui Hark's future plans.

Jeanne Carstensen meets "Max Cohen, 22, the hottest director of the new wave of Yiddish-language animation. Not only is Cohen leading this new wave, but, as he explained to me last night at the SFJFF filmmakers' dinner at the Triptych restaurant, the wave actually has only one director - Cohen, and only one film, Cohen's six-minute The Tale of the Goat."

The cinetrix saw the restored Elevator to the Gallows yesterday. It is as cool and slick as today's weather is hot and sticky.

Recently in Film-Philosophy:

Hiroshima mon amour

Lincoln Cho in January on Kevin Smith's Silent Bob Speaks: "It is sometimes brilliant, occasionally thought-provoking and quite often gut-wrenchingly funny but it is clearly - and I mean clearly - only for hardcore fans."

DK Holm cracks a wry smile as he launches into his review of Jimmy McDonough's Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film at Smith's Movie Poop Shoot: "[M]y three dinners with Meyer more or less chart and support the career trajectory that McDonough sets out in his book. I will recount these exposures to the Meyer whirlwind, briefly, for the edification of future generations."

Chuck Tryon glimpses the future of advertising: "The 'information rain' concept really creeps me out." But he's intrigued by news passed along by Marc Ruppel that Richard Kelly is planning a six-part graphic novel to roll out alongside his next feature, Southland Tales.

Ghost World Dan Glaister interviews Daniel Clowes. Also in the Guardian:

  • Carol Sarler on Jane Fonda's plan to bus across the US, protesting the war in Iraq: "You cannot march for justice, peace or freedom across the great powerless plains of small-town, fly-over America; all you can do is trample upon the fear and grief of this generation of people whose turn it has been to provide the cannon fodder for Rumsfeld's army."

  • Rusty Goffe: "My life as an Oompa."

  • Helen Pidd meets Kate Hudson.

A lot of people have friends who make movies, but Wendy Mitchell's a lucky one; she evidently has friends who make good movies: Michael Tully and Dominic Thackray.

Tom Hall tells Hollywood where to go and what to do with itself once it gets there.

"The movies are just sort of beside the point," agrees Mark Lotto in the New York Observer. They're "the incidental byproduct of some chemical reaction between ourselves and celebrities, the irreducible remainder of an equation we’ve already completed and forgotten."

But David Poland argues that fun's only just now about to begin.

The Nashville Scene rounds up the best of summer.

If you're in LA, David Chute recommends the International Preservation series (through August 26), featuring "works by such legendary film artists as Fritz Lang, Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjöström and Josef von Sternberg, all of which might have been lost if not for the hard work undertaken by preservationists in Paris, Bologna, Hong Kong and Berlin."

Also in the LA Weekly: David Thomson has very fine remembrance of Gavin Lambert and Paul Malcolm on Ibolya Fekete's Chico.

Kevin Thomas also hits the highlights of the International Preservation series as well as the recently wrapped Outfest. Also in the Los Angeles Times: Merrill Balassone talks with Diane Lane.

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back: "I watched [Takashi Miike's] Izo in the theater with seven other people, and we all hated it."

In the Philadelphia City Paper, Cindy Fuchs recommends The Beautiful Country.

At Slashdot, Robin Rowe posts a note about the MovieEditor Conference in LA on August 3, co-presented byLinuxMovies.org. His title, "Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar Go Linux," prompts Sidde to ask, "So Steve Jobs runs Linux now?" Among the replies: "I got a private tour of Pixar a few years ago... About the only Macs I saw where on Steve's desk and a few 'office managers' desks." "They switched to OS X for (most of?) their desktops. Their render farm is still running on Linux."

Ling Lung Online browsing tip. Ling Lung, a 30s-era Japanese Chinese magazine. Via Rashomon.

Online viewing tip #1. A sneak peak at Henry Selick's Moongirl. Via Mack at Twitch, who passes along news that Selick will be directing an animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Caroline.

Online viewing tip #2. Werner Herzog and Grizzly Man co-producer Jewel Palovak at Mutiny City News.

Online viewing tip #3. Emily Chang interviews Stephen Chow for ImaginAsian TV's The Lounge. Via Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

Online viewing tip #4. David Fincher's video for NIN's "Only." Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #5. Silliness from the Groen Brothers via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:48 PM | Comments (3)

July 27, 2005

Sight & Sound. August 05.

Out of the Past "[S]omehow part of [Robert] Mitchum was always outside events, taking a dispassionate view of what was going on around him," writes Nick James in the August issue of Sight & Sound. "This quality was an intrinsic part of what made him such a superb actor. He was neither a theatrical technician nor a Method invoker of ghost emotions, but really did, as he claimed, make it up as he went along, a naturally gifted performer who seemed to know instinctively how to give minimum effort for maximum effect."

Jonathan Romney talks with Annie Griffin, director of Festival, "a cruel, highly intelligent and often bitterly hilarious comedy of showbiz manners that also displays a pitiless insight into the vanities of the performance world."

Reviews:

Sight & Sound

Update: Sight & Sound has redesigned its site and all the URLs have changed; these links should be working again, and hopefully, S&S will eventually be redirecting from the old addresses for its articles and reviews to the new.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:48 AM | Comments (2)

July 26, 2005

Shorts, 7/26.

Winter Soldier The Reeler catches Winter Soldier, "which gets shown, like, never, because according to the filmmakers, neither the major networks nor even PBS are willing to touch something that so graphically addresses atrocities committed by Americans during the Vietnam War," and decides "it revealed an interesting phenomenon I do not think I have experienced in 25 years of moviegoing: The film is unreviewable. It unfolds in long, slow, terrifying fits; it hints at nothing; at its most symbolic, it represents a culture's repeated failure to learn from its own heinous historic mistakes."

Blake at Cinema Strikes Back: "I have never felt so much hope and heartbreak in the span of two hours as I have experiencing The Constant Gardner. I'll never be the same." Also: Charlie Prince on Alexei Balabanov's The War.

Geoffrey O'Brien in the New York Review of Books on War of the Worlds: "On one hand the movie is a game, a conscious display (if we needed it at this stage) of Spielberg's technical mastery; on the other it reaches toward what might be prophecy, or passionate allegory, or exhortation to mindfulness of real human suffering. This is where the unsettling part comes in, because for all his deliberateness as a filmmaker Spielberg cannot altogether control the undertones of despair and gnawing anxiety that his images elicit." Read the wonderful paragraph on the "aura of virtual historical reality" at least twice. Related: Mack at Twitch has found some photos snapped on the set of Spielberg's Munich.

Yokai Daisenso Patrick Macias passes along word from Matt Alt: "However you want to translate the title, Hiroko and I just caught a sneak preview screening of [Takashi Miike's] Yokai Daisenso. The plot, in a nutshell: when elementary schooler Tadashi's pet yokai is kidnapped (by a beehived, whip-weilding Chiaki Kuriyama), he doesn't just get mad - he enlists his alcoholic, doddering grandfather (Bunta Sugawara, in his most challenging role yet) to school him about the yokai legends of the sleepy seaside town they live in." On a somewhat unrelated yet nevertheless interesting note, Brian Ruh drops a comment pointing to an item in Néomarxisme about film reviewing and censorship in Japan, an item Marxy follows up on today.

Filmbrain is quite impressed by Broken Flowers: "Jarmusch knows all too well what he's doing," while "Bill Murray gives the strongest performance of his career."

David Lowery likes the "obscure tricks" in Brad Mitchell's Asterion but is generally disappointed in Chris Cunningham's Rubber Johnny.

See Lila Says for Vahina Giocante, advises the cinetrix.

Reviews at Koreanfilm.org:

Voice

This week's angles from Reverse Shot at indieWIRE: Jun Ichikawa's Tony Takitani.

Today's Wellesian item: The Pop View on The Magnificent Ambersons.

At Movie City News, Gary Dretzka talks comedy, censorship and The Aristocrats with Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza.

The Great Slump of 2005 was actually not all that great, explains Edward Jay Epstein. But that doesn't mean Hollywood isn't staring down into a potential "Death Spiral"; after spelling out the problem, Epstein promises to spell out a possible solution next week. He'd probably have a bone or two to pick with Chris Lee's piece in today's Los Angeles Times.

The Royal Tenenbaums Also in Slate: Seth Stevenson on "The Best Ad on Television" and Field Maloney asks, "What if Owen Wilson, America's resident goofy roué with the broken nose and the lazy nasal drawl, was the rudder keeping USS Anderson on course, steering its captain away from solipsism and ironic overload?"

Scott Kirsner is currently "working on a book about new technologies have changed (and are changing) Hollywood," and of course, he's blogging, at CinemaTech, where, most recently, he talks to Mark Cuban: "We're open to anything and everything. We'll try to learn and get smart about it." Via Cinema Minima.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing: "Of all the amazing and wonderful things I saw this weekend at London's OpenTech conference, none came close to the stupendous Promise TV box." Slashdotters comment.

Vince Keenan: "In a somewhat despairing introduction, John Updike wonders why a writer as gifted as [Daniel] Fuchs would abandon fiction for the movies. In one way or another, every piece in The Golden West is about that conundrum."

For Kamera, Tahir Latif revisits Jim Kitses's Horizons West.

Ben Slater has been in touch with just about everyone involved in the making of Saint Jack; now to begin writing that book in earnest.

Girish Shambu explains how he chooses "films that will 'hook' the uninitiated and begin the process of converting them to foreign film watchers."

Jodie Foster is set to direct again; Cyndi Greening has details.

David Ehrenstein remembers Gavin Lambert.

The Guardian: "A Dutch court today sentenced the self-confessed murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to life imprisonment." Also, Jamie Wilson reports on Jane Fonda's plans to bus across America, protesting against the war in Iraq.

The Fantasy Filmfest opens in Munich tomorrow and rolls across Germany through August 24.

Elevator to the Gallows Online viewing tip. The trailer for Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows. Via Ben, awash in the Whine Colored Sea.

Online browsing tip #1. Slashstyle. Also via Coudal Partners: R Crumb's The Religious Experience of Philip K Dick.

Online browsing tip #2. The Metaphilm Movie Mapper, a guide to real locations in NYC, e.g., where Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) went to school.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:54 AM | Comments (3)

July 25, 2005

Shorts, 7/25.

Fan-Tan There's a David Thomson double feature playing in the Independent today; in the first piece, he just sort of wonders out loud what'll become of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. The second piece is by far the more interesting one, the story of how he was called into edit and essentially finish Fan-Tan, a novel (it had started out as a film treatment) by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell.

Yet another fascinating entry from Nick Rombes: "If the home movies of Mekas or Brakhage are considered avant-garde — while home movies by any number of amateurs from the same era are not — is this due, at least in some part, to the fact that these films of Mekas and Brakhage were discussed and promoted in the pages of a 'serious' journal like Film Culture, while the pages of a magazine like Better Movie Making promoted a different vision?" Chuck Tryon has a few initial thoughts in response.

Via Matt Clayfield, Jonathan Rosenbaum for Criterion:

F for Fake

It would be comforting to say my early appreciation of F for Fake included an adequate understanding of just how subversive it was (and is). But leaving aside the critique of the art world and its commodification via "experts" - which is far more radical in its implications than Citizen Kane's critique of William Randolph Hearst — it has only been in recent years, with the rewind and stop-frame capacities of video, that the sheer effrontery of many of Welles's more important tricks can be recognized, making this film more DVD-friendly than any of his others.

[...]

The key to Welles's fakery here, as it is throughout his work, is his audience's imagination and the active collaboration it performs — most often unknowingly — with his own designs, the kind of unconscious or semiconscious complicity that magicians and actors both rely on.

George Fasel's list of his top westerns peaks here: "the genre itself is pretty definitively eliminated with number ten, 1969's The Wild Bunch." And then, there's a coda.

Simon Callow in the Guardian:

Now that its influence has begun to wane, and it ceases to remind us of its imitations, we can again see the most influential play of the second half of the 20th century for what it is. Waiting for Godot has lost none of its power to astonish and to move, but it no longer seems self-consciously experimental or obscure. With unerring economy and surgical precision, the play puts the human animal on stage in all his naked loneliness. Like the absolute masterpiece it is, it seems to speak directly to us, to our lives, to our situation, while at the same time appearing to belong to a distant, perhaps a non-existent, past.

Also: Philip French on the Polanski case and a blush-inducing roundup of film-related blogs.

Junebug Logan Hill chats briefly with Junebug director Phil Morrison in New York.

Via Twitch: The official site for Werner Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder, with Brad Dourif, and more sumptuous imagery: Info on The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, from the Brothers Quay and executive produced by Terry Gilliam.

Chuck Olsen explains why, when it comes to vlogs, Katie Dean gets it right in Wired News, while Sarah Boxer gets it all wrong in the New York Times.

Also in the NYT, Laura M Holson: "[W]hat has caught many investors by surprise is the number of blunders DreamWorks Animation has made since going public last October." And Allison Hope Weiner talks to Stephen Bocho about Over There, his new dramatic series on FX about the war in Iraq.

Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei More on that one from Nancy Franklin in the New Yorker, where Lauren Collins talks to Deep Roy about playing all the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - and to Eugene Pidgeon about the implications - and Anthony Lane reviews Last Days, The Edukators and 9 Songs.

CNET's John Borland: "Sony is joining 20th Century Fox... in a new broadband experiment aimed at promoting movies with full-screen, near-DVD-quality video viewed straight off a viewer's hard drive."

As DVD sales become more interesting to watch than box office numbers, another ranking elbows its way into our attention span; p2pnet.net tracks the top ten file share downloads on two charts, "Global" and "USA." Via Cinema Minima.

"We at Film Threat consider Dan Mirvish a personal friend and a hero of independent film." The Slamdance co-founder has had a terrible accident; he'll recover, but FT is encouraging well-wishers to send along a few lines of support.

That was Outfest: A look back from Jonny Leahan, with generously captioned pix from Brian Brooks and Eugene Hernandez, at indieWIRE.

Between Just For Laughs and the Fantasia Festival, Matt Dentler's been having a grand time in Montreal and posting lots o' pix over the past several days.

BIFF 05.jpg Trevor Gensch previews the Brisbane International Film Festival (July 27 through August 8) at Hollywood Bitchslap.

Hollywood continues to invest heavily in the Chinese film industry, reports Zafar Anjum for the Asia Times: "How has the Indian cinema establishment responded to this Chinese challenge? Not impressively, so far at least. Even as Indian filmmakers have continued to celebrate their creative vacuity by churning out the run-of-the-mill formulaic flicks or rehashed versions of great oldies, their Chinese counterparts have made Hollywood not only sit up and take note of them but have also made the Tinseltown luminaries scurry to them with business offers." Also via Movie City News: Monkey Peaches on John Woo's The Battle of Red Cliff.

Online viewing tip. Sufjan Stevens on Morning Becomes Eclectic (scroll down). Via Darren Hughes.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:37 AM

Midnight Eye. Zainichi.

69 As Tom Mes notes in the introduction to his interview with Lee Sang-il, Sixty Nine, based on the novel by Ryu Murakami, is a departure for the director of Borderline (2002) and Blue Chong (2000), both of which were "musings on the unravelling of the social fabric of Japan and in particular on the identity of the zainichi, Japan's ethnic Korean community." Sixty Nine, though, "is an infectious, footloose procession of picaresque tomfoolery, [dispensing] entirely with the myths of the sixties," as Mes writes in his review.

Most of us probably have a clearer shot at eventually catching Yoichi Sai's Blood and Bones, "one of the most lauded films of 2004 on its home turf, riding high on most critics' top ten lists and racking up nominations at the Japan Academy Awards" - once again, Mes. "Not the slightest factor in this success was the overwhelming central performance by Takeshi Kitano as the short-fused, anti-social brute Shunpei Kim, a real-life figure who arrived in Osaka by boat from Korea in 1923 as a teenager."

Jaspar Sharp was in Frankfurt in April for Nippon Connection, "probably the most important annual celebration of Japanese cinema and culture in Europe," and offers capsule reviews of five features he took in there.

Otherwise, it's an all-Mes issue, rounded out by reviews of a survey of the work of Naomi Kawase and Masaaki Tezuka's "remake of Mitsumasa Saito's cheesy 1982 wannabe-blockbuster Time Slip (aka GI Samurai)."

It's a summertime kind of issue, but a fine reminder that Mes's Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto is now out.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:36 AM

Summer reading. Contemporary.

Contemporary "The pioneers of video were steeped in the radical politics of their day," Catherine Elwes reminds us in a "Polemical History of Video, in Brief," one of a handful of articles from a not-so-recent issue of Contemporary devoted to video. It's Steven Bode, actually, who kicks things off, noting that as the VCR fades from homes, it's still alive and kicking galleries. As demonstrated in the reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 1:35 AM

July 23, 2005

Weekend shorts.

My Son the Fanatic "How could apparently assimilated, British-born Muslims end up stuffing bombs into their backpacks and murdering dozens of their compatriots in the Tube and on a London double-decker bus?" asks June Thomas in Slate: "Some possible answers are offered in Udayan Prasad's 1997 movie My Son the Fanatic."

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek remains "appalled" - now more than ever, even - by Spielberg's "abuse of 9/11 imagery" in War of the Worlds and is simply not buying Slate's David Edelstein's arguments justifying it.

Dan Neil in the Los Angeles Times Magazine: "I thought it might be illuminating to take in the Sunday brunch at Scientology's Celebrity Centre, a cast-concrete château in the heart of Hollywood. What was the mood of the place now that Scientology's most famous adherent had managed to turn Scientology into, if only temporarily, the Church of the Raving Jerk?"

In the paper:

  • Scott Timberg meets Wong Kar-wai: "He's become a kind of Hong Kong Proust, combining the kinetic movement and hallucinatory night life of his home city with a ruminative style and a growing concern with our inability to capture lost time."

Nitrate Won't Wait

Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect: "The director and I are pattering away in a bizarre mélange of Thai and English, often within the same sentence. 'Thai films can really have a sang son quality, that textbook preachiness, sometimes,' director Apichatpong Weerasethakul muses. 'I didn't feel like papayon should be like that.'"

Robert Bresson "The critical reception of Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar has typically been hyperbolic," writes Leo Goldsmith, yet "Balthazar is such a concise and economical film that such ovations seem to be answered – like the majestic crescendo of the Schubert piano sonata that accompanies the opening credits – with the braying of an ass." Also at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: Martha Fischer on Signs of Life, "among [Werner] Herzog's simplest features."

Flickhead has also been taken again by the donkey: "While fans generally choose between Diary of a Country Priest (1951) and A Man Escaped (1956) to name as Bresson's best film, both Balthazar and Mouchette (the story of a young girl not unlike Balthazar) may emerge as his true masterworks."

Gaby Wood in the Observer:

[Christopher] Doyle says people are always telling him that In the Mood for Love is their favourite film. The other day, M Night Shyamalan told him: "Even my architect's assistant's accountant says it's the best film he's ever seen in his life." Doyle understands it: "I think if you get one image per film that actually works, it's better than average,' he says. 'Who's going to forget Maggie Cheung walking up those stairs? Everything else is working towards that; it is a consolidation of ideas into an image."

Related: Todd posts behind-the-scenes pix from the shoot for Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves. Also at Twitch, X, a new and prolific contributor who's been covering news from Korea, has not only more tidbits today but also a generous snippet from Oh Dong-jin's recent interview with Park Chan-wook.

Michael Powell: A Life in Movies "The British director whose image has most changed over the years is Michael Powell, whose films pose the same problems to serious cinephiles as the high-concept movies of Steven Spielberg." That's JG Ballard's gist, but the first half of his piece is a reverie, recalling his regular movie-going in the late 40s:

On dull afternoons, when I should have been dissecting cadavers, I watched Sunset Boulevard, Orphée and Open City. A completely new culture and social climate were being created, international in spirit and more urgent than almost any novel. I knew it was more important to see T-Men and White Heat than listen to FR Leavis lecturing on Virginia Woolf.

Also in the Guardian:

More Independent interviews: Marc Cameron with Jennifer Connelly, Tiffany Rose with Christopher Walken, Chris Sullivan with JT LeRoy and James Mottram with Tim Roth.

Yasmin Alibhai Brown: Who Do We Think We Are? Also, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: "To enjoy something is not always to understand it. Hindi cinema, the biggest in the world, with more than 900 releases every year, is known for its melodrama, music and kitsch. But this cultural force also reflects socio-economic conditions and often undermines the powerful. It is a key player in the tumultuous politics of India."

"But a decade-long cultural churning has overturned stereotypes in India," writes Anupama Chopra, primarily tracing the rapid and dramatic evolution of the Bollywood heroine.

Also in the New York Times:

Book reviews in the NYT:

Scott Eyman: Lion of Hollywood

Ryan Gilbey: It Don't Worry Me Book reviews at Hollywood Bitchslap: Scott Weinberg on Christopher Null's Five Stars! How to Become a Film Critic, the World's Greatest Job, "a fantastic little book"; Matthew Bartley on Ryan Gilbey's It Don't Worry Me: Nashville, Jaws and Beyond, "a slight, but impressive piece of work," and James Marriott's The Virgin Guide to Horror Films - "1) he can write and 2) he loves horror."

Ryan Wu on "not being a completist": "At some point you can't watch everything your 50 favorite current filmmakers put out and have time for that lesbian movie playing at Laemmle. One has to choose. And I guess I choose to drop [Richard] Linklater and [Tim] Burton for the time being."

In the same vein, but flowing in the opposite direction: George Fasel on Ingmar Bergman.

Filmbrain on Tetsuya Nakashima's Shimotsuma Monogatari: "With just a hint of a plot, the film follows the developing relationship of this mismatched duo, and its success is due to the wonderful pairing of [Kyoko] Fukada and [Anna] Tsuchiya - two young actresses who have a classic sense of comedic timing, and who play off each other in a way that many other buddy-film duos don't."

If only half of us were as sharp as Brian Flemming, our species'd stand a chance.

Mix-n-match:

Herzog on Herzog

"I steal a lot from Spielberg." Tim Story fesses up to the Telegraph's Marc Lee.

"Konstantin Faigle, whose light-hearted film The Great Depression: Made in Germany won widespread cheers at the Munich Film Festival in June, told Reuters that he believes a pronounced pessimism is ingrained in the German mentality." Via the indieWIRE Insider.

For Deutsche Welle, Silvia Oster reports on how the decline in movie attendance is hurting small films in Europe.

Ray Pride presents another big roundup at Movie City News.

Rob Zombie: American Made Music to Strip By The Devil's Rejects is "just about as perfect as a film of its type can be," writes David Lowery.

The IFC News group selects and annotates cinema's greatest suicides.

All part of Wired's "Remix Planet" issue: Neil Gaiman on the Gorillaz, William Gibson on cutters, pasters and samplers, Beth Pinsker on Tarantino's gleeful thievery, Neal Pollack on fan fiction and so on.

Kirby Dick's Oscar-nominated Twist of Faith has just opened in LA; as it rolls out, it may be headed your way. Click the title to check.

Siqueiros Online browsing tip. An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life. An online archive of over 5000 images based on the photographic archive of Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. (More.)

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Shane Acker's 9, a short that, as Quint reports at AICN, will become a feature.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Aaron Woodley's Rhinoceros Eyes (find "media"). Via Kurt at Twitch, who writes: "Rhinocerous Eyes convincingly walks the line between the disturbingly macabre... and farcical comedy" and Michael Pitt's "very unusual performance sets the tone for the entire picture."

Online viewing tip #3. A riveting car chase. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #4. This Spartan Life. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #5. Popping water balloons in zero gravity. Via Slashdot.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2005

Fests, ongoing and upcoming.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opened yesterday in the city and roams the Bay Area through August 8. In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Cheryl Eddy not only highlights Protocols of Zion and Massacre; she also leaps to praise "easily the hardest rockin' doc" of the fest, Liz Nord's Jericho's Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land.

Rachel Odes focuses on the series of films related in one way or another to that "dark age of censorship," the McCarthy era. Four of these features, for example, were written by blacklisted screenwriters: "It was a handful of these left-wing blacklistees who made the most radical film of the period, Salt of the Earth, a rare document of labor strife during the birth of American-dream mythology starring workers who actually fought back against managers for their livelihood."

More on the fest from Vanessa Romo at indieWIRE.

At Twitch, reviews from the Fantasia Festival in Montreal: Michael Lasry on Inkasso (Sharks) and Atomik Circus.

"Z Fest Monterey [July 29 through 31] is a tribute to Jerry Harvey and the films and filmmakers he presented on the remarkable Los Angeles cable channel, the Z Channel, which flourished in the 1980s."

The Boston French Film Festival is about to wind up, but there's still the weekend to catch a bit if you're there. Peter Keough hits the highlights in the Boston Phoenix.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:47 AM | Comments (3)

Jet-lagged shorts, part 2. Weeklies.

Perhaps the best way to catch up with the weeklies is to break 'em down, film by film. Might as well start with Gus Van Sant's Last Days:

Village Voice: Kurt Cobain

Craig Brewer's Hustle & Flow:

Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears:

Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs:

Austin Chronicle: Mark Zupan Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro's Murderball:

  • The cover copy for Shawn Badgley's story in the Austin Chronicle sums it up best: "Six Months. Thirty Film Festivals. Hundreds of Interviews. Thousands of E-Mails. Plenty of Partying. Countless New Fans of the Man, His Sport, and His Movie. Twelve Years After Adjusting to Life in a Wheelchair, Mark Zupan Adjusts to Life in the Limelight."

  • Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper.

More:

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 AM | Comments (3)

July 21, 2005

Senses of Cinema. 36.

"Via a mix of good fortune and design, this issue kicks off with a series of essays that coalesce around the themes of violence and cruelty," write Senses of Cinema editors Rolando Caputo and Scott Murray.

Freeze Me

The articles gathered under the heading "The Metaphysics of Violence" are:

Interviews:

Spider Forest

Might as well go ahead and add to these names those of the five new "Great Directors" in the critical database: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Richard Franklin, Alfred Hitchcock, Tomu Uchida and Michael Winterbottom. The overdue inclusion of Hitch is accompanied by the second part of Alain Kerzoncuf and Nándor Bokor's strange yet strangely appealing transcriptions of the trailers for the films.

A section on experimental cinema:

Harry Smith: Untitled Watercolor (Detail)

For those who can't get enough of summer reading, the occasionally longish and always meaty features:

  • So what is wrong with Australian cinema these days? Indie filmmaker Bill Mousoulis picks up where Matthew Clayfield left off and steers the question his way.

L'intrus

Then, besides the new top tens and annotations, there are eight festival reports and seven book reviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:24 AM

Filmmaker. Summer 05.

Filmmaker: Summer 05 Scott Macaulay's interview with Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer, "this year's Sundance sensation," fronts the summer issue of Filmmaker: "I know so many rappers in town and they're making their rap the same way that I'm making my digital movie: They're recording it themselves, they're making the beats themselves, they're doing it in their homes."

Another Sundance sensation would be the directing team of Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro. Their doc, Murderball, was financed by THINKfilm and went on to win the Audience Award; Jason Guerrasio chats them up. So, too, by the way, does Jamie Stuart at Movie City News, this entry's first online viewing tip.

And there's bound to be at least one future Sundance sensation lurking in the eighth annual survey, "25 New Faces of Independent Film"; kudos to the editors for providing clickable email addresses.

In a similarly promising vein is Mary Glucksman terrific regular feature, profiles of five new indies in production.

Tamara Krinsky's update on the 2005 Fast Track Program, sponsored by the magazine and the Los Angeles Film Festival - more fresh faces and contacts - segues nicely into the festival coverage - Howard Feinstein and Guerrasio on Cannes and Tribeca, respectively - which, online, includes Peter Bowen's report from the Bermuda International Film Festival.

Graham Leggat was at Cannes, too, and notes several qualities in some of the films "that games rarely if ever begin to approach."

Shortish:

Posted by dwhudson at 9:15 AM

Jet-lagged shorts, part 1.

No Direction Home It's perhaps a sign of the season that we're not only already looking forward to the fall but also even to fall TV. The San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman offers an exhilarating preview of Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and the Guardian's Jason Deans notes that Brits'll be watching it in September, too. Days after the 3.5-hour doc premieres on PBS and BBC2, it'll be out on DVD.

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader: "Broadly speaking, the closest thing to a precedent for Yes is Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras's 1959 Hiroshima, mon amour.... [Sally] Potter isn't dealing with a trauma buried in the past but one that's ongoing, though she too uses spatial and cultural removes."

George Fasel on Ken Loach: "He cares even if we don't, and I think that makes him indispensable."

Loach's Kes, by the way, is one of the top ten films most recommended for kids, a list that goes to 50, includes Moodysson and Kiarostami and was compiled following a debate hosted by the British Film Institute and the Barbicon and found via Twitch, where you'll also find quite a roundup of news from Korea.

Caterina in the City NP Thompson finds in Paolo Virzì's Caterina va in città "one of the very best reasons to go to a movie right now."

Chuck Tryon: "2005 is starting to look the year of the Urban Ensemble movie."

In Slate, David Edelstein responds to Timothy Noah's tsk-tsking Spielberg for his "pornographic" "appropriation of 9/11 imagery" in War of the Worlds: "Forgive me: I thought movies - even big-budget summer movies - were supposed to confront national traumas. And I don't find even a whiff of exploitation in Spielberg's treatment." Also: Dana Stevens on the current Bob Newhart revival.

Via Movie City Indie, news from Today's Yong Shu Chiang: Ben Slater's book on the making of Peter Bogdanovich's Saint Jack is a go.

Also: Rex Sorgatz reports at MNSpeak.com on Paul Thomas Anderson's role in the making of Robert Altman's adaptation of A Prairie Home Companion (buy the shirt!); according to Ray Pride's followup entry pointing to Chris Hewitt's piece in the St Paul Pioneer Press, PTA is a "Pinch Hitter" for his mentor.

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee reports on the first Thai doc to hit theaters; via Grady Hendrix at Kaiju Shakedown, where you'll also find a pointer to ThaiCinema.org's item on six films celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday. The makers: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming-Liang, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Garin Nugroho, Bahman Ghobadi "and first-time filmmaker from Paraguay Paz Encina." Related: Grady Hendrix whispers into the Reeler's ear; The Taste of Tea takes the Audience Award at this year's New York Asian Film Festival.

Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film For Film-Philosophy, Robert W Davis Jr reviews Joseph Cunneen's Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film.

More newish books of note: Patrick Galloway's Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook and Mark Le Fanu's Mizoguchi and Japan.

Call for Papers: "Susan Sontag: Cinema and Photography," a special issue of Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities.

Kinsey Lowe wraps the Los Angeles Times's bloggish coverage of Outfest with a "fond adieu" and a list of awards.

Cronicas Steve Erickson in Gay City News on Sebastián Cordero's Crónicas ("it would be thoroughly mainstream... if it were in English") and the Asian-American International Film Festival (through July 31).

Dennis Cozzalio pops 42 questions. And answers are already coming in.

Matt Dentler caught the Austin premiere of Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears: "A lot of the original is remade note-for-note, but there are plenty of new jokes to satisfy someone like me, who has seen the original 100 times."

You'd think it'd be in a celebrity's best interest not to go nuts in public. But what if it's all part of the act? Vanessa Grigoriadis toodles around LA for New York.

Dan and Nicole "chronicle the process of developing, financing, starting, and maintaining a small, independently-owned, art-house theater," the Moxie.

Brian Flemming passes along Participatory Culture's Internet TV Design Contest announcement.

In case you hadn't heard:

  • Reuters: "David Lynch wants to raise $7 billion to bring about world peace through a massive transcendental meditation program."

  • At Cinematical, Karina Longworth files the first "Polanski Report"; many are sure to follow.

  • CNET reports on speculation that Apple is working on "an online movie store and a video playback device that does for movies what iTunes and the iPod have already done for music."

  • The AP: "James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and motion pictures who responded to the apocryphal command 'Beam me up, Scotty,' died early Wednesday. He was 85." Also via Chuck Olsen, CNN: "Doohan will become the newest individual opting to send his ashes into the Earth's orbit."

Poster Online browsing tip. The 8th International Poster Biennial in México. Via Coudal Partners: "Hit 'view gallery' for an eyeful."

Online viewing tip. Digital History's collection of hundreds of trailers, from Broken Blossoms to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:22 AM

July 20, 2005

Summer reading. Brazil.

"The New Cinema Meets Cinema Novo: New Trends in Brazilian Cinema," Lúcia Nagib in Framework, presumably in 2001 (the site's a little hard to scope out):

Central do Brasil

The interest in the homeland shown by the majority of Brazilian filmmakers has ceased to reflect nationalism as it was conceived in the 60s. If sometimes contemporary Brazilian cinema betrays a certain pride (in the fascination for landscapes, for example), this is due to prevailing conditions (the market, for instance) rather than to anachronistic patriotic feelings.

[...]

However, the question remains: why do so many young filmmakers turn to themes once explored by Cinema Novo, which was moved by the need to explain and mould the national identity? For certain, they feel the urge to look again to their country. But this new look is not politically oriented as it was in the past, because, in the real contemporary political context, nothing would sustain such attitude.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:27 AM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2005

Summer reading. Cavell.

Stanley Cavell in conversation with Harry Kreisler in 2002:

I hope to heaven that I respond to movies the way everybody else responds to movies, otherwise I wouldn't trust what I said about them. It may be that I trust them to be saying something more than most people do. It may be that when a tune gets stuck in my head or an image gets stuck in my head, I figure there's a reason why, and I'm on the lookout for it, maybe, more than others do. But impact, I hope, is just a plain down-and-dirty, being-overwhelmed impact. To talk about what that is, why they are overwhelming, is a part of an ongoing aesthetic inquiry into what films are. The world viewed is, I think, as much about that question as about anything else.

Stanley Cavell

It used to be that you could say one of the things about film is the gigantism of the images, which dwarf you, which infantilize you, which make you speechless. Maybe one can see smaller images now and still have an experience of film, but now there are so many intricacies and technologies involved, that somebody's going to have to rewrite all of this for each of these technologies.

Related: Thomas Elsaesser on "Stanley Cavell and Cinema."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:44 AM

July 18, 2005

Summer reading. Zizek.

"The Thing from Inner Space," Slavoj Zizek, Artmargins:

What pervades Tarkovsky's films is the heavy gravity of Earth that seems to exert its pressure on time itself, generating an effect of temporal anamorphosis that extends time well beyond what we perceive as justified by the requirements of narrative movement...

Stalker

Tarkovsky is to be opposed here to the ultimate American paranoiac fantasy, that of an individual living in a small idyllic Californian city, a consumer paradise, who suddenly starts to suspect that the world he lives in is a fake, a spectacle staged to convince him that he lives in a real world, while all the people around him are effectively actors and extras in a gigantic show.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:05 AM

July 17, 2005

Summer reading. Cohen.

Last year, for Film International, Patrick McGilligan interviewed Larry Cohen, the writer-director with a car trunk full of treatments:

God Told Me To

FI Was this quirkiness bottled-up inside of you? God Told Me To, for example, is light years from anything else you had done – not only different from other films in your own career but different from the rest of the American cinema. Was there always this genie inside of you, waiting to jump out?

LC Yeah, I think so. Even when I was writing comic books as a kid, I was writing very eccentric stories – not the usual comic book stuff. When I got a chance to make my own movies, I figured, if you're going to do your own film don't just copy somebody else's movie, or make something in a traditional form that you've seen everyone else do.

FI Was it more of an evolution, than a leap?

LC Maybe. I don't know. I credit my subconscious for most of my work. I don't think too much about what I write. An idea comes to me, and then I feel like I should write it, so I sit down and just let it go. I don't work it out in advance. I don't make a step outline of what's going to happen. I like to let evolve. I'm always looking forward to the next day's work, so I can find out what happens to the characters.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:09 AM

July 15, 2005

Summer reading. Wenders.

Wim Wenders, responding:

Naked Punch

The loud and lurid are terribly overrated, and just because everybody seems to have accepted that they rule, some of us grudgingly - we shouldn't exclude the transcendental, the silent or the good as being part of our contemporary existence. Wings of Desire was making that point, and not, I think, by dwelling on the "art" aspects. And the way people all over the world embraced that alternative way of "purification" sort of proved my point, didn't it? That doesn't mean I can't dig the vulgar. Fassbinder's films as well as, let's say, Almodóvar's today have marvelously explored that territory, without glorifying it like for instance Lynch or Tarantino. With these guys I sometimes feel they try to prove their point so much that it becomes redundant. Not that I don't count them as two of the most brilliant stylists and innovators of our times. (I just dread their imitators...) But to come back to your question...

Actually, pointing to that excerpt, the idea is to get you to look at and explore Naked Punch.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:45 AM

July 14, 2005

Summer reading. Sync.

The Regent Journal of Film and Video, Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 1993:

Bunuel por Bunuel

Volume 1, Number 2, Spring 1994:

Raising Arizona

And that seems to have been that, far as I can tell.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:15 AM

July 13, 2005

Summer reading. Perfume.

Perfume Tom Tykwer has begun shooting his adaptation of Patrick Süskind's Perfume in Munich with Ben Whishaw as one of the most extraordinary characters in contemporary fiction, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and Dustin Hoffman as the Italian perfumer, Baldini.

If you've never read the novel, you have time - the film isn't due in theaters until late 2006 - but do get it done. To whet your appetite, Vintage offers the opening passages...

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name - in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade's, for instance, or Saint-Just's, Fouché's, Bonaparte's, etc - has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, to wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:37 AM | Comments (6)

July 12, 2005

Summer reading. Dahl.

Roald Dahl in the February 1973 edition of Horn Book Magazine:

Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Mrs. Eleanor Cameron (I had not heard of her until now) has made some extraordinarily vicious comments upon my book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Knopf) in the October issue of this magazine. That does not worry me at all. She is free to criticize the book itself for all she is worth, but I do object strongly when she oversteps the rules of literary criticism and starts insinuating nasty things about me personally and about the school teachers of America.

She quotes Eudora Welty - and she wouldn't quote her if she didn't agree with her - as saying, "three kinds of goodness in fiction... the goodness of the writer himself, his worth as a human being. And this worth is always mercilessly revealed in his writing." Having said this, she goes on to announce that Charlie is "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children." She says a lot of other very nasty things about it, too, and the implication here has to be that I also am a tasteless and nasty person.

The full exchange is collected and archived here; found via a page at RoaldDahlFans.com: "Politically Correct Oompa-Loompa Evolution."

Related: Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker and Filmbrain's review of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:03 AM | Comments (2)

July 11, 2005

Summer reading. JT & Asia.

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things In the summer issue of Zoetrope: All-Story, JT LeRoy talks with Asia Argento about The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, one of the films I saw in Austin and always meant to get around to reviewing here, even briefly, but never did; that's a long story, but in short: There are moments when the indie-ness of the film wears through, but it is vibrantly (and yes, at times, crushingly) alive in ways too many other films, too many indies included, were never even conceived to aspire to be.

JT: I advised you to cut me out of the process. It's like trying clothes on a doll. It's hard to have the maker of the doll there saying, That's not the right color. What are you thinking?

ASIA: And I was thinking, How am I going to do this? How am I going to direct and act? How am I going to become this person who's not, you know, the most pleasant, and then become nice for the crew? People can be schizophrenic, I suppose, and be both; and I tried really hard to be both, to be the director and to be Sarah. But within all that, I was dying. So I was like, Fuck it, I'm just going to become Sarah and the crew is going to hate me and it will be sad. I may want to go home, and I'll feel really lonely. You know, I lost a lot of friends then. But those people have forgiven me, I guess. I was really ugly inside when I played her; I didn't know any other way.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:44 AM | Comments (3)

July 9, 2005

Karlovy Vary Dispatch. 2.

David D'Arcy, who's reported on art and film for NPR, the Art Newspaper, the Economist and other publications, sends a second and final dispatch from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (July 1 through 9).

My Nikifor Now that the prizes at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival have been awarded - most of the them to the Polish film, My Nikifor, it's time to draw some conclusions. For the most part, the news is good. In its fortieth year, the festival continues to improve, building on its existing strengths and developing new ones.

Karlovy Vary's signature strength is in its location and its commitment to presenting the region's cinema, a point which I've already made. Just a sentence or two about the festival's competition of 16 features. The winner, My Nikifor, by Krzysztof Krauze, is the story of a self-taught artist who settles into the world of the legitimate painter who "discovers" him. It's The Man Who Came to Dinner, only this man is a quirky, irksome dwarf of an artist, and, as I'm sure you've already guessed, there's an irresistible charm to the elfine nuisance (who happens to look like a grotesque shape out of the imagination of the Polish writer and artist Bruno Schultz. By the way, the elf is played by the actress Krystina Feldman. She seems on her way to becoming Poland's Linda Hunt.

Kinamand The feature competition is not one of Karlovy Vary's greatest strengths. It's hard to get the best world premieres when Cannes is in front of you and Venice is looking over your shoulder, although Chinaman, by Henrik Ruben Genz of Denmark, offered a genuinely sensitive twist on the now-perennial European story of the green card marriage between a sagging Danish plumber and the frail pretty sister of the proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant. (It didn't win any awards.)

Let's expand a bit on Karlovy Vary's efforts to show the films of its region - bear in mind that this an international film festival, not a regional one. Obviously, Karlovy Vary can't be responsible for the ups and downs of regional filmmaking in any given year, and there certainly are ups and downs in this part of the world - especially the surprisingly disappointing Slovak comedy of unemployment in de-industrialized Ostrava, The City of the Sun, by the talented director Martin Sulik. Given that inevitability, the festival doesn't make the mistake of stressing sheer novelty.

Let's start with some films that haven't yet had to stand the test of time. Wrong Side Up by Petr Zelenka, was the most highly praised of the Czech films of the past year. Its hero, also called Petr, is a klutz who has been demoted from his job as a navigator at the Prague Airport to forklift duty. If that isn't demeaning enough, his dark-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend has moved in with another guy. This kind of character is a staple of Czech comedy, the every-nerd who brings calamity upon himself, but somehow triumphs in the end. (I won't give away the film's ending anti-triumph, which seems to be Zelenka's twist on the formula.) But on the way to the ending, Petr takes us from encounter to encounter, all of which seem gently absurd, all of which gel into a Kundera-esque magic realism. There's the father who deserts his humorless wife for a nutty artist, and the couple next door who like to be watched having sex, and the boss who keeps a plaster mannequin of a bimbo around for companionship. It's nothing if not flaky. Yet flaky and funny are two different things. Wrong Side Up left me cold. I'm willing to blame myself, since the whole audience was laughing. If nothing else, my Czech wasn't good enough. Funny or not, Wrong Side Up is undeniably slight. Is this a reflection of Czech cinema's ambitions these days? I sure hope not, but I saw no evidence to the contrary.

The Ruins Slovenian films were more encouraging. A number were at the festival. The results were uneven, as always. But the one film I liked was The Ruins, by Janez Burger. It's a backstage drama (I'd call it comedy, although a very dark one) about a stage adaptation of what we think is an Icelandic text. Soon we find out that the author of the Icelandic saga is Herman, the director, but not before he learns that his wife is sleeping with the lead actor, his best friend. He reacts by sleeping with his best friend's wife and pain is shared by all. No one is left unbetrayed. Somehow the absurdity of doing it all in the name of faking an Icelandic drama keeps you laughing. (I can't say as much for the another Slovenian comedy, Suburbs, by Vinko Moderndorfer, about four losers somewhere on the outskirts of Ljubljana whose idea of fun involves killing a dog and mounting a video camera in a birdhouse to observe a young couple's sex life. Again, I may just be culturally-impaired when it comes to appreciating this comic sensibility, although I doubt it. I can't imagine why Variety included the plodding film in its "Critic's Choices." Maybe that's another joke I didn't get.)

District

I liked District, an animated feature billed as "Hungary's answer to South Park." The mix of computer animation and crude hand drawing is set among the aimless youth of a rough neighborhood in Budapest. The language is raunchy; so are the ethnic and sexual stereotypes in this Romeo and Juliet story. Although the film degenerates into a video game that you might see on Saturday morning television, director Aron Gauder is someone to watch. He seems to love provocation and to bring some freshness to it.

So did Theo van Gogh, although his talents went far beyond the stigma of the aging enfant terrible that's been the official story of so many press accounts. Two of van Gogh's films were in Karlovy Vary - Cool!, about gangs struggling to go straight, and 06/05 (The Sixth of May), a thriller about the killing of Pym Fortuyn in May of 2002. Van Gogh crossed the boundaries of political correctness when he championed Fortuyn's campaigns to limit immigration. He also shared Fortuyn's skepticism about Dutch "tolerance" of the doctrines and customs of Islam. He was finishing 06/05 when he was stabbed to death in Amsterdam in November 2004 by a Dutch Moroccan. (Full disclosure - Theo can Gogh was a friend of mine.)

06/05

The thriller follows a journalist at the scene of the crime because he's photographing a bimbo star nearby. The investigation finds a connection to the Dutch government, and offers a theory - Fortuyn was killed because he seemed likely to control a future right-wing government and threatened to block an arms deal which would have enriched Dutch businessmen. As van Gogh saw it, Fortuyn's genuine nationalism was a threat to the crony capitalists in Holland and elsewhere who exploited nationalism out of greed. It's plausible enough to make the story work; perhaps there's even some truth to it, although we may never know. What we do know - and what I hope the Karlovy Vary audience recognized - is that van Gogh had an irreplaceable voice that we'll miss.

Karlovy Vary is to be commended for showing both of van Gogh's films, as it is for searching the archives and showing Czech films (and other films) that audiences rarely get a chance to see. This year the festival screened A Higher Principal by Jiri Krejcik, who also received a lifetime achievement award. (Krejcik's acceptance speech about the power of cinema and the opportunity to seize that power was so eloquent that the audience, normally hungry for the next star or party, listened in silent admiration.) The 1960 film looks at the Heydrich Affair, the 1942 assassination of a top Nazi official by Czech partisans and finds lots of cracks in the sanctimonious official story of Czech heroism in the face of Nazi terror. (Why should the Czechs have been any different than the French?) The good news was that the public (or the happy few among them) saw one of Czech cinema's triumphs from the era before the Czech New Wave. The bad news was that the aggrieved majority who missed the screening (myself included) will have to wait a long time before they see the neglected film again. A Higher Principal is not available on tape, according to my informed sources on Czech cinema - even the festival lacked one. Let's hope that changes, but it probably won't unless potential distributors become aware of it. For that to happen, they have to see it.

Battle of the Rails Another archival section devoted to films about World War II offered more familiar films - like The Bridge, the 1959 German film by the Swiss actor and director Bernhard Wicki. Young boys filled with passion taste the emptiness of heroism and sacrifice as they defend a bridge destined to be dynamited by the same soldiers who told them to protect it. The closeness to the war itself gives the film a realism that you won't find in today's computer-driven war epics. There was far more realism in René Clément's 1946 The Battle of the Rails, about resistance among railroad workmen (although it did give the impression that France was one big brave resistance family - a myth forged in the swoons of liberation that no one believes these days). War romance aside, the films gave audiences something to think about, or at least a break from the inanity of contemporary Czech comedy. It was reassuring to see that so many in those audiences were young. Programs like Karlovy Vary's World War II series are important contributions to film culture. Let's hope for more next year.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:52 PM

July 8, 2005

Film Comment. July/August 05.

Film Comment: July/August 05 The TOC for the new issue of Film Comment is inviting enough, though the online offerings are a bit slimmer this time around. Even so, Nathan Lee's approach to Wong Kar-wai's latest is fresh and intuitive: "[In the] Mood [for Love] was an erotic depth charge; 2046 is the pattern made by its aftershocks."

Chris Chang issues a call to distributors - Pick up Police Beat! - and: "Last Days is a strange creature: it's an extremely abbreviated biopic with zero details, a tribute to a man and his music without a trace of his songs, a tragedy without an arc, etc. It's also dynamite artistry."

Then, the lengthier pieces, the takes on Cannes from Kent Jones, Gavin Smith and Richard Peña.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:01 PM

July 7, 2005

Summer reading. Cinemaspace.

Cinemaspace seems to be a site, bloggish in form but archival in content, run by Alex Cohen, who teaches at Berkeley. There are three papers collected here, seemingly unrelated in any way other than that they're here, that is, that Cohen values them enough to format and post them. Can't disagree; they are, with his intros:

City of Sadness

  • A City of Sadness: A Hypertextual Multimedia Article": "This paper by Abe Mark Nornes and Yeh Yueh-yu, is probably one of the very first hypertextual critical film texts on the web. It was published in 1995 and reworked in 1998." [Note, too, the "Hypermap" of the paper and the interviews with Hou Hsiao-hsien.]

  • "Clockwork Orange and the Aestheticization of Violence": "This paper by Alexander Cohen of the Film Studies Program, UC Berkeley combines a reading of Walter Benjamin's 'Work in the Art of Mechanical Reproduction' with a close analysis of the rape scene in Kubrick's film Clockwork Orange." [With a clip.]

  • "The Political Aesthetic: Nation and Narrativity on the 'Starship Enterprise'": "Justine Walden's paper on Star Trek is probably easily the most brilliant analysis of Star Trek. You will never see Star Trek the same way again."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:29 PM

July 6, 2005

Short shorts, 7/6.

The makers of The Dreams of Sparrows, a collaboration between Iraqi filmmakers and American producers on the war in Iraq, are asking for house parties to help get their film finished, while also perhaps inspiring others like it: "The mission of the iraqEYE GROUP was to create a means for Iraqi filmmakers to rebuild their community and reestablish their means of production."

"For almost 80 years, the film world had been mourning the loss of a unique film from that era: Beyond the Rocks, made in 1922. Directed by Sam Wood - who would go on to direct many great films, including A Night at the Opera and Goodbye, Mr. Chips - it was the only film to pair two of the biggest names of the day: Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino...The dramatic story of its recovery is like a film plot in itself." From Radio Netherlands, via Blake of Cinema Strikes Back.

bigparade.jpg

Speaking of silent film, the tenth edition of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival gets underway Friday, and both Dennis Harvey of the SF Bay Guardian and Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle explore the legacy of John Gilbert, "the biggest male star of the late 1920s," Harvey notes, "But the tragic-loser image that lingered after Gilbert's demise serves him ill. For one thing, the guy was no vacant himbo: He wrote several of his earlier vehicles and provided the brilliant original story for 1932's Downstairs, wherein he plays a sociopathic chauffeur. (His best talkie performances tapped into increased offscreen self-loathing.)" I don't really understand LaSalle's opening paragraph, but the rest of the piece is a worthy read, focusing on the efforts of Gilbert's daugher, the colorfully named (after her mother) Leatrice Fountain, to restore her father's legacy, and that of his films. Gilbert starred in the Festival's centerpiece screening: The Big Parade.

The Fest also offers up a helping of Harold Lloyd, which we could probably all use these days.

Also in today's SFBG:

  • Cheryl Eddy on Mana: Beyond Belief (unless you want to hear the trippy opening music on the flash page, then go here): "The Forevertron's mysterious and fantastic existence is revealed at the end of Peter Friedman and Roger Manley's beautifully shot international exploration of 'mana' – explained as 'an object that produces something that makes you feel there's some power there.'"
  • And Eddy on the zombie flick from Down Under, Undead, (and actually made a few years ago): "[G]ets points for incorporating ambitious special effects into its (low) budget, as well as taking a turn into serious sci-fi territory not usually incorporated into zombie movies... [but is] not nearly as memorable as Shaun of the Dead, which worked the 'zom-com' angle with far more satisfying results. Nor does Undead feature much in the way of Romero-eque agenda-pushing."
  • Meanwhile, Johnny Ray Huston wonders if the above trend reflects the zeitgeist of America in general: "The morsels Romero serves up in Land of the Dead are just desserts for a zombie nation wearing the eternal-shame badge of a second-term Bush presidency."

  • And Harvey again, on Jenni Olsen's The Joy of Life: "'Experimental' yet immediately accessible; universal in themes yet as specific as a diary entry."

As David noted, while he's on vacation the Daily will be a bit quieter than usual, but Summer Reading entries and the occasional bit of shorts will hopefully be enough to tide you over.

Posted by cphillips at 2:59 PM

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Posted by cphillips at 2:33 PM

Ernest Lehman, 1915-2005.

From The New York Times:

"Ernest Lehman, a noted Hollywood screenwriter whose work included classic films of the 1950's and 60's like North by Northwest, Sweet Smell of Success and The Sound of Music, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 89 and lived in Los Angeles.

The apparent cause was a heart attack, his wife, Laurie, said.

lehman.jpg

One of the best-known screenwriters in Hollywood in the postwar years, Mr. Lehman worked with many of the most prominent directors of the period, including Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. A master of adaptation, he wrote or was a co-writer of film scripts for several Broadway musicals, including The King and I (1956), West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965); romantic comedies like Sabrina (1954), which began life as a play; and astringent dramas like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), by Edward Albee."

From David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film:

"Around the age of sixty, Ernest Lehman seemed to have stopped doing scripts - and that's our loss. Of course, he may have been writing away (like Billy Wilder) on screenplays that are smart, funny, and beautifully constructed, only to be told that no one has the patience for movies like that any more and, anyway, what does he know about what kids want? So the kids are deprived, too, and everyone misses Lehman's subtle way of getting us to grow up."
From me: Lehman's crackling script (with Clifford Odets, lest we forget) for Success is at the top of my list of Most Caustic Ever (which provided Tony Curtis with his finest role), while North By Northwest remains one of Hitch's most consistently entertaining, even the parts that defy logic are forgiven for creating cinematic set pieces, one after the other, and among the wittiest of all of the master's films. Lehman never won an Oscar but was given the consolation "Honorary" Academy Award in 2001.

Posted by cphillips at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

Summer reading. Richie.

Richie: Japanese Cinema A tip from Doug Cummings opens this year's series of summer readings. As in the summers of 03 and 04, I'm withdrawing from the buzz for a while, but I've lined up some entries pointing to reads without news hooks or any sense urgency about them at all, really, and they'll appear with some semblance of regularity until I return - although this year, I won't be nearly as far away from a keyboard and a connection, so I may interject a note now and then. Or not.

We begin with Donald Richie, who introduces the online edition of Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character, published back in 1971: "I would write it differently now - in fact, I have, in A Hundred Years of Japanese Films (2001). Now, my ideas of film style have broadened and I am no longer so confident that such a thing as national character can be said to exist. Nonetheless, this book still has its uses."

And it's free. Read it online or download a PDF version of the complete book.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:39 AM | Comments (3)

July 5, 2005

Euroshorts.

Salo In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Michael Haneke tells Rüdiger Suchsland that only shock can break the barrier of naivete in both filmmakers and audiences (he picked up this idea watching Pasolini's Saló years ago; it made him sick for three weeks and, even though he owns the DVD, he's never seen the film a second time); that, yes, he is, at heart, a pessimist; and that his two greatest influences are Bresson and Hitchcock, "both absolute masters in their fields."

Also via Perlentaucher, and also in German: Dorothee Wenner in the Tagesspiegel on the Nigerian film industry; you knew it was booming, but did you know it's providing jobs for 125,000 people?

In Le Nouvel Observateur, and in French, Jacques Drillon, Fabrice Pliskin and Odile Quirot ask Patrice Chéreau about his production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Even so, "La liberté, c'est le montage." Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:27 PM

Karlovy Vary Dispatch. 1.

David D'Arcy, who's reported on art and film for NPR, the Art Newspaper, the Economist and other publications, sends a first dispatch from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (July 1 through 9).

Karlovy Vary 05 This festival in the venerable spa town of Karlsbad marks its fortieth anniversary this year. Among the major film festivals, it's still the most local - a question of budget, perhaps, in the struggling Czech Republic - and still the best place to see films from Eastern Europe. Even in that region, so many films are being made that you can't call Karlovy Vary one-stop shopping. Think of it as a place to sample the year's films from the Czech Republic and other countries of the former East Bloc. It's an event to whet your appetite, but not always to satisfy it. 

This year's offerings sampled more than regional specialties - with improved projection, although improving the comfort of seats, like rebuilding Eastern Europe, is still an ongoing project. The festival opened with a screening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - a new print, we were told - which launched a tribute to Robert Redford. (Given its localness, this festival seems overly awed by stars. Sharon Stone also made an appearance.) Redford was here for the opening, accompanied by the former US  Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, noting that his country had a lot to learn from the Velvet Revolution that set then-Czechoslovakia free from communism in 1989.

Karlovy Vary is also running a retrospective of the films of Sam Peckinpah, including the newly-restored and augmented print of Major Dundee, Peckinpah's wild saga of rogue major Charlton Heston leading a troop of renegade soldiers to fight Mexicans, Apaches, the French and each other in the years after the Civil War. The violent gestural politics (if you can call it that) of this film seemed like sheer fantasy in a country that had transformed itself almost bloodlessly not long ago. Just as much of a fantasy was the worship of the handsome outlaw pair in "Butch Cassidy." The audiences ate it up, but I suspect they thought it was as real as Star Wars or Kung Fu Hustle, which had a packed midnight screening.

For realism, they looked closer to home, just across the border, to Poland.

The Wedding When I first heard about The Wedding, the new film by Wojtek Smarzowski, a German friend told me: "The Poles think it's a comedy." Since a Polish director did make it, and since it is, after all, a loose update of a play by Stanislaw Wyspianski (which was filmed by Andrzej Wajda), I assumed that the Poles were right. Yet being right doesn't make this film any less dark. It's as black as a comedy can be, while still being funny.

The film's central event brings together family and friends, the past and the future, love and money. This wedding makes sure those components are brought together in the kind of cocktail that challenges you not to vomit. Set in rural Poland, where purity (and brutishness) can be found in every home - or at least we're supposed to think so - The Wedding gives us a look at the new Poland, where the State is just another client with its hand out. It's not flattering. In the elegant opening sequence, well-wishers in a church are well-dressed for the big event. It's the only time when things seem to be right. Within minutes, we see we're in a Poland where nothing is what it's supposed to be, and everything and everybody are for sale, but almost nothing is paid for. It's also a place where weddings go on all night. This one never seems to end.

The film is a dance that spins around wildly, shifting from conflict to conflict, slashing into a different character at each turn. Simply put, Wojnar, the father of the lovely blonde bride, is a nouveau riche flower merchant. We soon see that he didn't make his money legitimately. He's overextended even as he offers the wedding couple an Audi sports car and a honeymoon in Croatia. He can't pay for the band, or for the alcohol, or for the food, or for the wedding videotape. Nor can he get his aged father to hand over a patch of land promised to the car thieves who furnished the Audi. And it gets worse.

Imagine taking an ensemble cast of superb actors (usually a given in Polish films), and then putting violence, vodka, and a corpse into a centrifuge, and then, turning it on for almost two hours. The camera follows it all at a tactile closeness, as the walls get splattered. It would be an understatement to say that The Wedding has a harder edge than Fireman's Ball, to which it's being compared. This is not a film for gentle souls. Poles will wince as they watch an irrefutable picture of what their society has become - if they're not laughing too hard.

More in the next installment on Slovenian comedies, the Karlovy Vary competition, and a discovery or two.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:21 AM

July 4, 2005

Alberto Lattuada, 1914 - 2005.

Italian film director Alberto Lattuada, whose work spanned four decades, has died at the age of 90. Lattuada's neo-realist films explored racism, unemployment and strikes following World War II.

The BBC.

Alberto Lattuada To the best of my knowledge, Il Mafioso is the first film to portray the mafia in such stark and uncompromising terms. I have little doubt that Francis Ford Coppola studied this film before making his Godfather films. The film is filled throughout with scenes, moments, and images that can be easily traced to the Godfather trilogy: a character returning to a seemingly sleepy Sicilian town; shots of criminals seated at a café terrace that render an edge of terror to the town's everyday reality; family head Don Vicenzo seated in the garden of his well fortressed estate, socializing with family and friends; the link between the church and the mafia; attention to such detail as clothing and dialect, including the poor Italian spoken by the Italian-Americans of New York; Sordi's assassination of a rival gang leader at a New York city barbershop.

[...]

After sampling Lattuada's work one thing is quite evident. Unlike some Italian directors who feel most comfortable in one particular social milieu (Michelangelo Antonioni for example) Lattuada moves convincingly from poor to middle-class with the same attention to detail that reveals character, class and culture.

Donato Totaro in Offscreen, 1999.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:10 AM

July 3, 2005

Firecrackin' shorts.

Sepet The centerpiece of the new issue of Firecracker, the eighth, is a special package on Malaysian cinema. Ben Slater, of harrylimetheme fame and fortune, opens the package with an introduction to several films we may be hearing much more about in the future (and who knows, we might even get a shot at seeing a few, too): "We may be just over the half-way mark but I suspect that 2005 will be remembered as ‘The Year Indie Films Broke’ in Malaysia."

Robert Williamson looks at the work of Malaysian indie filmmakers James Lee, Ho Yuhang and Tan Chui Mui as well as: "A feisty Malay schoolgirl with a passion for John Woo and Frantz Fanon, and a Chinese gang member with a sideline in writing romantic poetry. Welcome to the quirky world of Sepet (Chinese Eyes), an intelligent, insightful and unashamedly emotive love story from writer-director Yasmin Ahmad." Also: Princess of Mount Ledang.

Erika Franklin interviews writer-director Ryoo Seung-wan who, with his younger brother, actor Ryoo Seung-beom, may be "set to change the way independent film works in Korea forever." Also: Arahan.

Reviews:

H

The Night of the Hunter Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, Nigel Andrews's ode to The Night of the Hunter in the Financial Times.

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake's found Henry Sheehan's 1977 (or 1978) lengthy interview with Vincente Minnelli.

Jonathan Jones on Dziga Vertov: "What we forget when we see these films as high art is that in Soviet Russia cinema was first and foremost addressed to the people - like Chaplin, it was meant to be universal."

Also in the Guardian Review: Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week, Joseph Losey's The Go-Between, and Nicholas Lezard on Nathaniel Rich's San Francisco Noir: "It is unlike any work of film criticism I have ever seen. Tourist guides that mention films are usually woefully stupid about the films; and film critics generally don't talk about the real locations as if they actually existed. Yet this is good on both."

As with Kings and Queen, Arnaud Desplechin's How I Got Into an Argument (My Sex Life) sends George Fasel to a passage from Philip Roth's The Human Stain.

9 Songs A bit like Michael Winterbottom's career (and life, too, evidently), Stephen Rodrick's profile of the director in the New York Times Magazine, opening with an off-putting scene from the shoot for A Cock and Bull Story (the adaptation of Tristram Shandy), is disorganized, lively and ultimately winning.

In the paper:

Gagamboy Mark Gilson at Twitch: "A strange slapstick take on the Spider-Man legend by way of the Philippines, Gagamboy is definitely one for those who like their entertainment a little cheesy."

The quote of the weekend comes from M Valdemar: "Thomas Friedman may be pulling crazy new metaphors out of his ass every week about the shape of the earth, but I still can't get my hands on South Asian shock films."

Benjamin Wagner interviews Cameron Crowe for MTV. Via Movie City News.

For the Independent, Liz Hoggard talks to Ioan Gruffudd about Wales and Hollywood.

The Dark Mirror Kenneth Turan: "[A]s demonstrated by "Dark Mirrors: The Films Noirs of Robert Siodmak," a fine new series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Siodmak was one of the great noir directors, a filmmaker who, for a period of time at least, never heard of the sunny side of the street."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • John Horn: "Top moviemaking talent enjoy a variety of hands-on helpers: personal assistants, drivers, chefs, hairstylists, costumers and even yoga coaches. Now there's an increasingly popular benefit for A-list actors and even some leading directors - the personal screenwriter."

  • Mary McNamara visits the set of indie horror flick The House at the End of the Drive. Says first-time producer David Oman: "I've always been told that I have a very open energy... The spirits sense that, I guess, that I am open like a light, and they come to me like moths."

  • Mark Olson profiles Isla Fisher.

"Is Anybody Making Movies We'll Actually Watch in 50 Years?" asks Newsweek's David Ansen.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival For the San Francisco Chronicle, G Allen Johnson previews next weekend's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Via the Alternative Film Guide.

Online browsing tip. Bighappyfunhouse. Via filmtagebuch.

Online viewing tips. Ricky Gervais x 2: Yes, the concert is over, but the promo is still terrific; and a clip (featuring Kate Winslet) from his upcoming Extras, both via Todd at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM | Comments (2)

July 1, 2005

Shorts, 7/1.

In his lengthy piece in the New York Times on how Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner are approaching the, shall we say, touchy subject matter of Vengeance, "the tale of a secret Mossad hit squad ordered to assassinate Palestinian terrorists after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich," David M Halbfinger plays straight into the director's hands, argues Nick Davis.

Munich 1972

It's quite a rant. On the one hand, "Spielberg's ad copy memo," slipped exclusively to the NYT, does seem fortuitously timed and Halbfinger might have done well to acknowledge suspicions (provided he has any) that he's being played like a Stradvarius by a maestro; and yes, Spielberg may well have an overblown sense of self-importance and the potential impact of what, after all, is only a movie; on the other hand, there's little doubt that Vengeance is newsworthy particularly as War of the Worlds tears through theaters around the globe; and not only am I, for one, glad to read about it, I'm also glad to read that Spielberg isn't simply barreling into the project, sensibilities be damned (as Ridley Scott seems to have done right up to the last moment earlier this summer; which, fortunately, turned out fine since Kingdom of Heaven was pretty much ignored).

Meantime, Spielberg might not have passed the same memo to the Los Angeles Times, but despite all the supposed secrecy, his representative, Marvin Levy, is on hand to talk to Rachel Abramowitz.

Back to the NYT: Ned Martel introduces a round-up of old TV shows on DVD, recommendations from NYT staffers, and new reviews:

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung (and in German), Alex Rühle asks Björk all about Drawing Restraint 9, the music she's composed for it ("Wagner invented film music") and her role, which is not a dramatic one, though she and Matthew Barney do cut off each other's arms and legs, turn into whales and swim to Antarctica.

Also via Perlentaucher: Heinz Kersten looks back on the Moscow International Film Festival for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. And for more on that in English, see Olga Sobolevskaya's report for Novosti.

Mountain Patrol

At Twitch, Josh Ralske finds Lu Chuan's Kekexili "austere, unsentimental, morally complex, and grimly realistic."

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore finds herself a bit underwhelmed by Park Chul-soo's Green Chair.

Slashdotters discuss Planet Tokyo's collection of stories on the state of the anime business.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has all the makings of the first in a projected series, i.e., a franchise. But the marketing for it, warns Charlotte Higgins, "will probably take place in the one place they might hope that their children could enjoy a respite from the turbid flood of commerce into which their children are increasingly swept: the classroom.... 'We want to combine the best in the world of entertainment with the best in the world of education,' says [Walden Media's Cary] Granat. Others might call it stealth marketing."

Also in the Guardian: Dorian Lynskey on Troy Duffy and Overnight; Tanya Gold can't find a superheroine to celebrate, and Peter Bradshaw gives WotW two out of five stars.

The New York Press presents a two-story cover package (JR Taylor and Jim Knipfel), a "Requiem for the Indies." Video outlets, that is, in NYC.

Also:

March of the Penguins

"Wouldn't it be great if more movie stars were like George Clooney?" asks Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter. "He's the modern model: He's too cool to demand a $20 million salary to prove his self-worth; he writes, directs and produces; and he expends his movie star capital to push for the things he believes in." That does seem rather remarkable these days.

Robert Mitchum

Christopher Bray in the New Statesman: "[Robert] Mitchum was one of the first actors for whom less was more, and it can be hard to get a grip on precisely what he did in front of the camera.... Are we talking about acting, then, or rather a heightened sense of being? Is the biggest trick great actors pull to make us believe that, unlike the rest of us, they are content within their own skin?"

In the London Times, Sean Macaulay tells the stories behind the studio logos that appear before their features, from the Rank gong to the 20th Century Fox searchlights, from Columbia's Lady Liberty to Universal's globe, Paramount's mountain and MGM's Leo.

In the Independent, Hugh Brody issues a call "for anthropologists to work with filmmakers on films that are committed, first of all, to listening to what indigenous people have to say."

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei interview Bill Irwin for the Gothamist.

Movie City News prompts a return visit to McSweeney's:

  • Dave Johnston: "How to Beat Off Invaders From Space; or, What to Do When the Aliens Come."

  • David Ng: "An Open Letter to the Human Resources Department of the Superfriends."

  • Andrew Golden: "An Episode of Star Trek Tediously Written for an Audience Entirely Composed of Remote Amazon Tribesmen."

IW editor Eugene Hernandez has five questions for Gregg Araki.

The Last Mitterand

For the Telegraph, Sheila Johnston interviews Georges-Marc Benamou and Robert Guédiguian, the writer and director, respectively, of The Last Mitterand.

Grady Hendrix: "The Real Fantastic Film Fest (the festival started this year by folks fired from the Puchon Fantastic Film Fest) has its English-language site up and it's very strange looking."

Short shorts via the indieWIRE Insider: The DC Independent Film Festival Summer Series, July 7 through 21. And the Prized Pieces International Film & Video Festival, October 7 through 10: Got a screenplay? Submission details.

Online browsing tip. From the Boston Globe and its readers, snapshots from the set of The Departed. Via Cinema Strikes Back.

Online listening tips. M Valdemar's found iPod candy at Zombie Astronaut.

Bench

Online viewing tip #1. "Bench," Lowe's ad for Stella Artois. Brilliant. Via Coudal Partners, who've been up to it again themselves: "Equal."

Online viewing tip #2. A clip from MirrorMask. Best dressing sequence since the opening of Dangerous Liaisons. Via Quint at Ain't It Cool News.

Online viewing tips #3 and #4. "Why Close the G8?" and today's edition of Rocketboom, both via Matt Clayfield.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:36 AM | Comments (3)